Saturday May 30th, 2009

Most of the contenders are alive, the strings are dead, the French women fell faster than the French GDP. We're seven days into Roland Garros and, herewith, our midterm grades. (All grades distributed on the Memphis Basketball bell curve.) Warning: argue the mark and you'll endure boos and whistles from the French crowd.

Men's seeds: A "formful" draw so far, led by Rafael Nadal, who looks typically unbeatable (in pink, no less) and Andy Roddick, who reaches week two for the first time in his career.

Dinara Safina: Simply dominating in her first four matches. Inevitably she will be disappointed if she doesn't lift the trophy in a week.

Maria Sharapova: Nice return from a shoulder injury. It hasn't been pretty but she's still in the draw. As cliché goes, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion."

Other comeback kids: Niklay Davyenko, Gael Monfils, Ana Ivanovic and Tommy Haas are among those finding traction on clay after a dubious start to 2009.

Ivan Lendl: It's been 25 years since his Roland Garros breakthrough. And, man is this a great interview.

Pau Gasol: He usually makes it to the French Open for last few sessions. Not likely this year.

Alexa Glatch: Scores a decisive win over 14th-seed Flavia Pennetta. Can't back it up in a winnable second rounder, but still an encouraging performance. Fed Cup, anyone?

Sibling acts: Bryan-Bryan, Williams-Wiliams and Radwanksa-Radwanka (Randwanksi?) still alive. Only Bondarenko-Bondarenko are out.

Ivo Karlovic: Well, 55 aces -- on clay no less -- was a Grand Slam record. Alas, it couldn't get Dr. Ivo into round two.

Jelena Dokic: Retires after leading against fourth-seed Elena Dementieva. A bad break, but an encourage result nonetheless. Tennis karma, you're on notice.

Marion Bartoli: Loses in round two but distinguishes herself in press conference. After her loss to Tatiana Garbin, Bartoli complained, "When I made unforced errors, her team would shout. It was not sportslike. They're Italians." When it was pointed that Bartoli's grandfather was also an Italian, she sniffed, "I'm from Corsica."

Tennis Channel: Coverage has been generally unimpeachable, but someone has to figure out a way to improve distribution. Who has an in with the Dolans?

Grunting: Like Nadal's pink shirt, it's a fine "conversational," but man have the sound effects gotten out of control. (That means you, young Michelle Larcher de Brito.)

Novak Djokovic: Loses in straight sets, never recovering from an unfortunate schedule. Also, acquits himself honorably in the post-match post-mortem.

French femme brigade: Of 18 players in the draw, two are left. Who do they think they are, Americans?

Venus Williams: Third seed pushed to three sets in first two matches and then musters a mere four games in a loss to Agnes Szavay. On the plus side, Wimbledon is just a few weeks away.

James Blake: Another underwhelming Slam result, this time a straight set loss to a qualifier.

Departing crowds: It's like mom calls from the stoop and every fan has to rush home for dinner. By 7:00 p.m. it looked like 75 percent of the seats were vacant, even as some of the biggest stars were playing.

Jon Wertheim is the author of a new book, "Strokes of Genius: Feder/Nadal and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played."

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